By Stan Welch
The Anderson County Council rejected a proposed two cents hospitality tax for the unincorporated areas of the county by a 4-2 vote Tuesday night. The vote, which came on second reading, means that no third reading will be needed. The tax is defeated. The vote followed a lengthy public hearing which saw numerous citizens and elected officials speak, both for and against the tax. The tax would have imposed a two cent tax per dollar on all prepared foods sold in the county.
Many of those opposing the tax were troubled by the fact that the issue wasn’t going to be decided by a referendum. The list of proposed projects to be funded by a general obligation bond to be issued, based on the projected tax revenues also troubled many of the speakers. A six and a half million dollar water park and swimming pool at the convention center site was a lightning rod, draw vociferous opposition.
The twenty million dollar general obligation bond also drew quite a bit of opposition. While each municipality in the county has already passed a version of the tax. Some of those towns delayed using the revenues generated for a year or two, while verifying the projected total revenues. Under the county plan, the GO bond would have been repaid with the tax revenues, while the various projects went forward.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson opposed the ordinance based on many of the grounds mentioned above, while District Six Councilman Ken Waters sponsored the proposal and supported it till the end. The Dolly Cooper Park would have undergone major improvements under the proposal.
The public hearing drew the largest crowd in recent memory. It appeared that some segments of the audience were orchestrated. Perhaps a dozen black citizens wore Black Lives Matter tee shirts, though the relevance of the message to the issue at hand seemed nebulous at best.
District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd, the Council’s only black member, as well as its only Democrat, opposed the tax based solely on the list of projects. Her district, which includes Broadway Lake, was slated to receive two million dollars, an amount she repeatedly challenged as being inadequate.
Waters and Councilman and lame duck Mitchell Cole were the only supporting votes. Councilman Frances Crowder was absent due to an illness.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders and Williamston Mayor Mack Durham both supported the measure. For details, see additional story in this issue of The Journal.